According to a recent study, simple food swaps could help both menopausal and pre-menopausal women prevent weight gain. Nutrition company, ZOE, conducted the study, in collaboration with King’s College London, Harvard, and Massachusetts General Hospital. The results, as reported in the Daily Mail, have appeared in The Lancet medical journal. Read on to find out how to avoid weight gain for menopausal women…
Menopause Side Effects
The researchers examined health data from 1,002 women. They were all of the same age, and were either pre-menopausal, going through the menopause or post-menopausal. It’s the world’s largest study of its kind. Dr Sarah Berry, is the senior author of the study, lead nutritional scientist at ZOE and associate professor in nutritional sciences at King’s College London. She said: “Our research shows that menopause is a time of major metabolic upheaval, which can have significant impact on long-term health.”
How to Avoid Weight Gain for Menopausal Women
The study also reported that post-menopausal women were more likely to have greater fat on the stomach, and elevated levels of inflammation, cholesterol and blood pressure. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51, according to the NHS. However, PCOS sufferers may experience the menopause due to PCOS We also have a post: “Everything you need to know for PCOS weight loss”.
What is the Menopause?
Menopause is defined as the changes a woman goes through just before and after she stops her monthly periods. Because of the hormonal changes that happen, people often refer to the menopause as “going through the change”. At this time, the ovaries stop producing as much oestrogen, and no longer release an egg each month. As a result, a post-menopausal woman is unable to fall pregnant naturally.
Menopausal Side Effects
Some women breeze through this time with few, if any, symptoms. However, around 60% experience symptoms resulting in behavioural changes, and as many as one in four will suffer severely. Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness leading to discomfort during sex, disrupted sleep, decreased sex drive, problems with memory and concentration and mood swings. And, of course, let’s not forget unwanted weight gain!
How to Avoid Weight Gain for Menopausal Women
The ZOE study, led by Dr Sarah Berry, reported that those who were post-menopausal experienced a bigger increase in blood sugar levels after eating a carbohydrate-rich meal compared to those who were pre-menopausal. As a result this also increased their risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Unwanted menopause side effects!
Dr Berry stated: “What our research shows is, that even in an aged-matched group, if you are post-menopausal, you have an unfavourable increase in blood sugar after consuming a carbohydrate-rich meal. It’s an effect due to menopause and the lower levels of the hormone oestrogen it causes. Therefore, women may wish to be more mindful about the type of carbohydrates they are consuming. This could mean moving away from highly-refined carbohydrates and processed foods that contain them – so thinking carefully about bakery, some confectionery goods, and some staples such as bread, pasta and rice.”
Not all carbohydrates are created equally!
Carbohydrates are made up of three components; fibre, starch and sugar. But you are probably already aware that not all carbohydrates are created equally. For example, fibre and starch are both “complex carbs”, whereas sugar is a “simple carb”. And there’s a big difference between them! There’s more information about this topic on the Healthline website.
Complex, or Whole Carbs, are a Good Choice
Firstly, complex, or “whole” carbs, are found in unprocessed, or “whole” foods. They are full of essential nutrients and fibre. The long chain glucose molecules in whole carbs take time to digest, providing slow release energy. They also don’t cause a massive spike in our blood sugar, which is good news for menopausal women, of course! Some good examples of “whole carb” foods include vegetables, whole fruit, legumes, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, quinoa and whole grains. Eating a variety of unprocessed, plant-based foods, such as berries, leafy greens, nuts and pulses can help menopausal women avoid unwanted weight gain.
The fibre in complex carbs doesn’t provide energy directly, but it contributes significantly to our friendly gut bacteria. This in turn is vital to maintaining good health. The gut microbiome affects aspects of health including the immune system and digestion. It contains millions of micro-organisms, such as bacteria and fungi. Also, fermented foods, such as unsweetened, full-fat Greek yoghurt, can promote a healthy gut microbiome. You may also like to read our post: top 7 store cupboard ingredients to speed up your weight loss.
Simple, or refined, carbs are bad news!
Whereas whole or “complex” carbs are in unprocessed foods, in direct contrast, simple, or “refined” carbs, are found in processed foods. These carbs contain short chain glucose molecules, which are digested very quickly to provide quick release energy. Unfortunately, this also causes huge spikes in our blood sugar, followed by a slump, which in turn triggers hunger and cravings.
And now, this new study has confirmed that unfortunately, the sugar spike is even worse for menopausal women! Additionally, when foods are “refined”, most of the essential nutrients and natural fibre are destroyed in the process, which is why we often refer to them “empty calorie foods”.
How to Avoid Weight Gain for Menopausal Women
Most people know that foods such as white bread, pasta and pastries are packed with unhealthy, refined white flour. But simple carbs also come in the form of added sugar. Typical examples are fizzy drinks, fruit juice concentrates, breakfast cereals, sweets and chocolate, cakes and biscuits.
Basically, if you read the list of ingredients and see any words ending in –ose, (such as glucose, fructose or sucrose, for example), these are all added sugars, and it’s best to avoid these products if possible. And especially so for women who are going through the menopause! But it’s not menopausal women who want to avoid weight gain.. Men may also like to read our post called “How to lose weight when you’re older.”
Sugar, of course, is implicated in obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And unfortunately, women who have gone through menopause tend to consume more sugar than those who have not, often to compensate for poor sleep. You may also like to read our page all about how quality of sleep generally affects a person’s hormones and weight, regardless of whether they are a menopausal women, or not.
If you’re still unsure how to decipher between your carbs, here’s a very simple strategy you can use. This will help you when deciding whether something is potentially a healthy, whole carb, or an unhealthy, refined carb food. Basically, if you’re looking at something which is a single-ingredient food, then it’s probably a good, healthy choice. On the other hand, if it’s something pre-packaged, with a long list of ingredients, best give it a wide berth! You may also like to read our page that summarises Dr. Michael Mosley’s recent TV documentary: “Who Made Britain Fat?”
I’m Going Through This With You!
I’ve worked in the area of weight-loss therapy for nearly 20 years, and have always stayed slim and healthy myself. I thoroughly enjoy my food, and one of my favourite pastimes is spending a few hours in my kitchen preparing tasty meals for myself and my husband, Martin. I love eating healthily, and choose to stay away from processed foods as much as possible, preferring a low-carb, Mediterranean-style diet.
Menopause Side Effects
Now I am in my mid-fifties, and although my weight has remained the same throughout my adult life, I have noticed significant changes in my body shape and body fat percentage, over the past couple of years. So, after reading the results of this new study, even I am going to be more careful and choosy about which sort, and how many, carbohydrates I’ll be consuming from now on. I know that this will not only help me maintain my current weight, but will also be hugely beneficial to my health and well-being in my later years.
How to Avoid Weight Gain for Menopausal Women
A while ago, there was a very interesting article in the Daily Telegraph:“How to eat cake and lose weight – yes really!”. It explained various helpful strategies we can use to help prevent massive spikes in our blood sugar. All this information is in Biochemist, Jessie Inchauspé’s, book:“Glucose Revolution”. As soon as the book came out, I grabbed a copy and thoroughly enjoyed learning about all the useful glucose curve ‘hacks.’ It’s definitely worth reading!
The Bottom Line
So, the easiest way to avoid any unwanted weight gain during the menopause years is to choose your carbs wisely. Choosing whole carbs over simple carbs helps to keep your blood sugar on an even keel, which also makes it easier to control your weight. But for those who feel they can’t live without refined cakes, biscuits, bread and pasta, combining them with healthy fat and protein will at least help to reduce the body’s glycaemic response.
Dr Berry concluded that although the study did show some of the negative effects of the menopause it did provide some potential ways to combat them. “What this study shows is that we’re not a prisoner of the menopause – we can do something about it,” she said. It’s important for women to recognise that as we go through the hormonal changes during our menopause, our body can’t process carbohydrates as efficiently as when were younger.
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Menopause weight gain: FAQs
Answer: Menopause is basically the changes a woman goes through just before and after she stops her monthly periods. It causes hormonal changes that result in the ovaries producing less oestrogen, leading to the end of natural fertility.
Answer: Common menopausal side effects include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, disrupted sleep, decreased sex drive, memory and concentration problems, mood swings, and unwanted weight gain.
Answer: To avoid weight gain during menopause, it’s essential to choose whole or complex carbohydrates. Unprocessed, plant-based foods like vegetables, whole fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, quinoa, and whole grains are healthy choices. These complex carbs provide slow-release energy and help maintain stable blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of weight gain.
Answer: Refined carbohydrates in processed foods lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar. This in turn causes energy slumps, increased hunger and weight gain. Studies have found that menopausal women experience much higher sugar spikes than non-menopausal women. Simple carbs, like added sugars in fizzy drinks, sweets, and cakes, can lead to weight gain and health issues like obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Answer: You can successfully manage the menopause’s metabolic changes through dietary choices. Choosing whole carbohydrates, avoiding refined carbs, and combining them with healthy fats and proteins can help maintain weight and reduce the risk of health issues. According to Dr Sarah Berry, it’s possible to combat the negative effects of menopause by making mindful dietary choices.
Answer: Menopause leads to less efficient carbohydrate processing due to lower oestrogen levels. Compared to non-menopausal women, menopausal women experience an unfavourable increase in blood sugar after consuming carbohydrate-rich meals. This increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Answer: Gut health is essential for overall well-being, as it affects the immune system and digestion. The gut microbiome, made up of millions of micro-organisms, plays a crucial role. Menopausal women can promote a healthy gut microbiome by consuming fermented foods like unsweetened, full-fat Greek yogurt.
There are several reasons why women tend to gain weight as they reach the menopause stage of their life. Firstly, hormonal changes affect how the body metabolises the food we eat, and where we store any excess energy. According to Healthline website, some studies suggest that lower levels of oestrogen seem to be linked with an increase in the hunger hormone, grhelin. It also causes the body to store more fat in the abdominal area, as visceral fat.
However, apart from our hormones, other factors tend to contribute to women’s weight gain. These include general aging and losing lean muscle mass, lifestyle changes and being less active, as well as genetics.
There are plenty of strategies you can put into practice to avoid unwanted weight gain. These include maintaining a good level of physical activity, and especially doing body weight exercises to build and strengthen lean muscle mass. Also, it’s important to manage stress levels and get plenty of good quality sleep. This helps to reduce cortisol and increases the body’s ability to burn fat.
Hormone changes are a natural part of the aging process. However, in women there is a rapid decline in hormone production during the menopause. In comparison, men’s testosterone levels gradually decrease very slowly over many years, after the age of 40. And most older men still have testosterone levels within the normal range.
It’s true that men can experience symptoms such as weight gain and excess fat around the abdomen, loss of muscle mass, mood swings, irritability and lower libido, as they age. However, according to Medical News Today, factors other than hormonal changes are just as likely to be the cause. These include lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, stress and lack of sleep.
The bottom line is there is not enough evidence for the “male menopause” to be a diagnosable medical condition.
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Menopause side effects